The day history was made in America, I was attending my first real writers' conference in Accra, Ghana. “Real” because I was actually a panel member, not just a starry-eyed student. Oh, I was still starry-eyed, hobnobbing with writers and poets at the Pan African Writers' Association’s 16th International African Writers' Day.
That morning, I caught some of the election coverage on TV, but fell asleep just around three. I tried hard to stay up, but I had a speech to deliver. Knowing how my nerves get when I’m before a crowd of people, I knew better than to test them. When I woke up, I heard the groundbreaking news on CNN. Needless to say, Obama’s victory overshadowed the rest of the conference—of course, in a good way.
The theme of the conference was “Manufacturing the New African Future: The Factor of Culture.” Delegates came from all over the African Diaspora and on the day Obama won, the theme was apt and spot on. Even though most of us had caught very little sleep, all the delegates’ eyes shone with victory and hope. Our chairperson, who seemed like she could unleash a stern grandmother act, was all smiles and excused people who came in late. Even when cell phones rang at the most importune moments, she said, “Today, you’re forgiven.”
The first panelists were architect and novelist, Dr. Lesley Naa Norle Lokko, and Baffour Ankomah, editor of the New African Magazine. Dr. Lokko spoke about the problems of defining culture and Mr. Ankomah talked about how a new African future could only be fashioned from a change in how we are educated. When it was my turn, I waxed about the important role culture had to play, if I wanted to become an African writer with a worldview. My co-panelist was the president of the South African Writer’s Association, Andries Oliphant, whose paper shared Steve Biko’s vision of culture.
Only after my nerves had calmed down did I realize the importance and the enormity of that day. Obama had done it. Yes, he had. Ghana itself is counting down to Election Day (twenty five days to go as we speak), but nobody was talking about that. All we could see was a Black Man in the White House, an African in the White House, and for most us, that spelled that a New African Future was definitely something that was within our grasp. Oh, yes we can!